Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mt. Tom - My 1st Winter Solo Hike

Mt. Tom (4,057ft)
Elevation Gain: 2,150ft
Trail: Avalon, A-Z and Mt Tom Spur
Distance: 5.8 miles roundtrip
Duration: 4.5 hrs (includes stops for breaks along the trail and at summit)
My 4000+ Peak #16
Listed 4000+: #40
Difficulty: Moderate

My very first official solo winter hike! And my third attempt to hike Mt. Tom. Couple days ago I was making my second attempt to solo hike Mt. Tom. But when I got to the trailhead around 915am, it was still foggy/cloudy and overcast. The folks at the AMC Highland Center told me that the sun was going to come out but they didn't know what time. I didn't want to wait and take a chance of not having enough daylight to hike. And I sure didn't want to hike it with my camera equipment and not have any views to photograph. So I went to the International Mountain Equipment store in North Conway and shopped through their "Consignment" section in their basement where I found two fantabulous deals on used ice climbing equipment! OMG, Koflach ice climbing boots and Trango Harpoon Dual Point ice climbing crampons (with hardware and tools!) for under $100! WHAT A STEAL! So, you see, all was not lost for that day!

So finally a sunny day from the get-go! My husband had left our old Kirby vacuum in my pickup, so I quickly put it in his car trunk and rushed to pack my pickup, making sure to pack my snowshoes, along with extra socks and winter gloves. The temps were close to single digits but I was psyched at the clear skies and the prospect of getting some photos.

At the trailhead, there were several others leaving for Mt. Tom as well as Mt. Willard and Mt. Avalon/Mt Field. I wore my 4 layers of winter gear because of the wind gusts. No snowshoes, but MicroSpikes were fine. I thought about keeping my camera packed for my ascent but changed my mind and kept it out. It took me three hours to reach the summit. But it only took me an hour-and-a-half to get back down!

The Avalon Trail ascends gradually and crosses and recrosses the Crawford Brook. I didn't bother stopping, but the trail passes by the Beecher and Pearl Cascades path. It took me just under an hour to get to the A-Z Trail junction, where at 1.2 miles, the A-Z Trail diverges right from the Avalon Trail. It descends to cross the Crawford Brook in a steep gully. The ascent from there was gradual until about a little more than half mile, it gets pretty steep. By this time, my left knee was barking in pain. I cursed the rest of the way for leaving my knee brace back in my pickup truck. It was this last stretch that set me back on my time. Finally, at the junction of the Mt. Tom Spur path, I stopped to take photos and had a quick chat with a couple who had just descended the summit and was eating their lunch. They had the company of two very aggressive Gray Jays.

The Mt. Tom Spur path starts off gradually with a spot of small, icy boulders to scramble. At about this time I started getting telephone calls, first from my husband, and then my daughter. Reception was zilch -  each time I answered, we got disconnected. I tried calling them back but couldn't get through. I just continued on the trail.

Mt. Tom has two summits, the first to be reached is a false summit. There were two couples having lunch here and I continued on the main path about another 50/60 yards to the true summit. It was cold, so cold that I was not in the mood for taking photos, but I snapped a couple from this area. I backtracked to the false summit and took several photos first with my digital camera, then with my iPhone uploading them to my Facebook wall. My plan was to have lunch here, or just under the trees and out of the wind. I had a chicken salad sandwich and a flask of hot coffee and although I was hungry, I had no appetite. Yet I forced myself to take a sip of my coffee, which by now, was lukewarm. I quickly shoved my camera into my backpack and put my fleece gloves back on over my glove liners. By now my toes and fingers were so cold, it was making me angry. And the only way to warm up was to run. So I ran down the spur path and in no time I warmed up.

Back at the A-Z Trail junction I stopped for a quick break and two Gray Jays scooped up some trail mix I had dropped. Then it occurred to me why my husband would be calling me while I'm on the trail...I had his only set of car keys!  When I had switched the vacuum to his car, I forgot to leave his keys! I dug into the pocket of my 3rd layer and there they were! I was relieved that they had not fallen out and quickly transferred the keys to a pocket with a zipper. From there I ran down the trail. I fell once, but luckily did not hurt myself (but my lower back will be aching tomorrow). So I stopped running, walking quickly instead. I didn't want to chance falling again and breaking something and having to spend the night.

The trail wasn't crowded at all, only two dozen other hikers on the trail and several dogs along with them. Oh by the way, my chicken salad sandwich was frozen, but thawed out very nicely in front of my truck heater vents.

(I just purchased the Mophie Outdoor Edition for my iPhone and it came with the Mophie Outdoor app. I was able to get it working on my iPhone. It tracked me until I started trying to make calls. Then it just kept shutting down and I couldn't get it back to continue tracking me. I do like the tracking feature, it shows the trail in red and locates me letting me know if I'm on the trail or not. Still learning how to use it, their user manual is large!)

**Click on photos to view larger images

Tried out my iPhone's Peaks app
Photo taken from the AMC Highland Center parking
lot - the info in the black area gives my current location.
Along the Avalon Trail (6)





Along the A-Z Trail (2)

Along the Mt. Tom Spur path (4)



From the "true summit" (1)
From the "false summit" (4)
(Mt. Washington in the background)




Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mt. Pemigewasset - Hiking

Mt. Pemigewasset (2,557ft)
Elevation Gain: 1,557ft
Trail: Mt. Pemigewasset
Distance: 3.6 miles roundtrip
Duration: 2.5 hrs
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Another NH 52 with a view mountain! Met up with the New England Over 50 Hiking group in the north parking lot of the Flume Gorge visitor center. I was so happy and excited about being on this hike, there had to be about 3-4 inches of snow in the parking lot alone!

The trailhead is about 150 yards beyond the parking lot. We made our way up a wide bike path before turning onto the Mt. Pemigewasset trail. This took us through 3 small tunnels, the first under Route 3 and the other two under the south and northbounds lanes of I-93.

The trail is relatively easy with a moderate ascent. Mt. Pemigewasset, also known as Indian Head, is a small peak, but its ledged summit provides excellent views of the Franconia Notch area. There was a light snowfall when our group got to the top.

At the summit I tried out the "Peaks" app (Augmented Outdoors) on my iPhone and even got  Mt. Jay 70 miles away in Vermont! I was so excited to get it working and showing the others in the group, I completed forgot to photograph the views! LOL! Sorry, next hike I promise to use the app and get photos of the surrounding peaks! But here's a short vid to give you an idea just how fun this app can be!



Peaks 2.0 from Augmented Outdoors on Vimeo.

 We didn't spend a whole lot of time at the summit. We hiked back down about 20 feet to get under the trees so we could lunch. Even after putting on another layer, I still got cold. And on the way back down to the trailhead I had to to run to warm up. Mt. Pemigewasset is part of the "New Hampshire 52 with a view" list.

**Click on photos to view larger images















 



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mt. Willard - Solo Hiking

Mt. Willard (2,865ft)
Elevation Gain: 900ft
Trails: Mt. Willard
Distance: 3.0 miles roundtrip
Duration: 1 hr, 45 minutes
Difficulty: Very Easy

My first solo hike in snow! Originally I had planned to hike to Mt. Avalon (3442ft), Mt. Field (4340ft) and Mt. Tom (4051ft) today, but I didn't get to the trailhead early enough. Sure, I could have run up and back down before sunset, but I'm quite attached to 3 pounds of camera equipment and prefer taking my time in order to take photos. If the weather is good and I get up early enough, I'm going to make next weeks hike to bag my 16th and 17th peaks atop mounts Field and Tom.

Mt. Willard is a very, very easy hike! The Mt. Willard trail is a short trail with a wide path. Its ascent is gradual and provides a moderate workout for those who like to hike nonstop. Reading other winter hike reviews, my intent was to snowshoe this trail but there wasn't enough snow on the ground yet so Microspikes were all I needed. No need to break trail either, the trail is well-packed. When I reached the ledged summit there were about a dozen folks just leaving. The summit is flat and wide and the trees stand about 30 feet from the edge. It was so cold and windy that I barely spent 10 minutes quickly taking photos.

Definitely no solitude today....I passed 50 other hikers on my ascent and descent. There were also a couple of large dogs on this trail, one I thought was a black bear at first glance. You know how it is....you look up the trail and see four black legs coming down the trail and it stops you in your tracks!

Mt. Willard is part of the "New Hampshire 52 with a view" list and indeed, the summit rewards you with some great views of Crawford Notch even in the winter! After my hike, I had lunch at the AMC Highland Center. I thought their food was a bit pricey...I had the vegetarian chili and a salad that costs over $10.

**Click on photos to view larger images